DUNCAN, Okla. – The Prairie Circuit has been home to rodeo’s top players since its inception in 1975, and its countdown of champions reads like a who’s who list for the sport’s greatest stars.
Names like Ferguson, Etbauer, Cooper, Duvall, Frost and MacBeth have been recognized in the greatest halls of fame in the sport. But the circuit system also is home to some of the greatest rising stars in the game.
Take Sage Kimzey. He’s 18 years old and competing this season on his ProRodeo permit – in order to be members of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, contestants must compete on their permit and meet a minimum requirement of $1,000 in earnings. Kimzey’s done that and more.
In fact, the bull rider from Strong City, Okla., leads the Prairie Circuit bull riding standings with $12,894. He’s well on his way to Destination Duncan and home of the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for Oct. 17-19, at the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center.
“Qualifying for the circuit finals is one of my goals this year,” said Kimzey, who earned his money in Beggs, Okla.; Bennington, Kan.; North Platte, Neb.; some co-approved rodeos in other states; and at the Chisholm Trail Stampede, which took place in Duncan in May. “It would definitely be really cool.”
Kimzey knows cool when he sees it. His father, Ted Kimzey, is a ProRodeo clown and entertainer who has served as the barrelman at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Rodeo is a way of life and has been since the day he was born.
“My family has rodeoed forever, and I was just brought up in it,” Sage Kimzey said. “Bull riding was always my favorite event, so that’s kind of how I got into it.”
Kimzey’s siblings, older sister Dusta and little brother Trey, are part of Tricked Out, a trick-riding group that performs at rodeos and other Western related shows throughout the country. To say rodeo is in the family’s blood would be quite an understatement.
Sage Kimzey just completed his freshman year at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, where he qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo – yeah, he reached another one of his goals. He’s taken the lessons learned from former world champion Gary Leffew and tied them into a nice little bow that makes up a solid start to his bull riding career.
“I went to his school when I was a sophomore in high school, and he taught us pretty much everything wrapped into one,” he said, referring to Leffew’s mental approach mixed with the technical skills it takes to ride bulls as well as possible. “Gary has just a really positive attitude. You think you could ride Goliath when you come out of his school.”
It’ll take that to win in the Prairie Circuit. Kimzey has about a $4,000 lead over the No. 2 man in bull riding, Tate Stratton. Other leaders are barrel racer Tana Renick, steer roper Rocky Patterson, tie-down roper Bryson Sechrist, saddle bronc rider Wade Sundell, team roping brothers Andrew and Reagan Ward, bareback rider Jared Keylon (who is injured and has less than a $2,000 lead over past circuit champ Caine Riddle), steer wrestler Stockton Graves and all-around cowboy Trell Etbauer, who also is in a tight race with Sechrist and Cole Wilson in tie-down roping.
Now Kimzey has a shot at winning the year-end championship.
“That didn’t start out being one of my goals, but I’ve had a pretty good permit year,” he said. “Now it’s one of my goals, and it’s definitely possible.”
With about two months remaining in the season, a lot of things can happen. There are a lot of big-money opportunities out there in a sport where dollars equal championship points. That means the cowboys and cowgirls who want to be in Duncan competing for circuit titles will need to do well over the remaining few weeks to secure their spot among the top 12.
“I’ve been around rodeo all my life, and my family does a lot in rodeo,” Kimzey said. “There’s just one focus in my life right now, and that’s riding bulls as well as I can.”